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World Cup Notes: Donovan, Bing, New Rules & More

World Cup 2010 Logo

One Great Season

If Landon Donovan's 11th-hour goal against Algeria saved his marriage last week, then his flat elimination-game effort against Ghana put it back in jeopardy, what does his future look like with actress Bianca Kajlich now that Manchester City appears to be interested in the capable midfielder?

I'm guessing the marriage has been saved, because Donovan, the best American player who earns slightly more than $2 million per year with the MLS' Los Angeles Galaxy, could earn as much as twice that wage if he signs with the world's richest soccer club. Man City plays in the English Premier League and has beefed up its roster with high-priced talent since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan bought the outfit in 2008.

CUP REVIEW: OK, so we're more than two weeks in, and despite being a novice football fan, I feel like I now have some semi-educated takes on why Americans -- or non-fans anywhere -- don't like soccer:

+ It's not a contact sport. If it was, there wouldn't be so many divas diving after the lightest of bumps, and there wouldn't be so many whistles after those cheap stunts. Contact does not equal pain. Man up.

+ The clock should stop. Soccer is the only sport whose players fake so many injuries simply to waste time. How about this renegade approach: Don't let them waste time. If not card them for their manufactured theatrics, at least stop the clock so they can't eat it up.

+ Add referees. If a soccer field is far larger than an NFL field, and seven officials are used in each NFL game (and many think they still can't get it right), why not add more referees to soccer? Or at least to World Cup matches? I can't believe how many incorrect calls or non-calls have negated goals in a sport where maybe only two or three are scored each game. In the NBA, if a ref misses a traveling call that led to a basket in the third quarter, the victimized team still has plenty of time and scoring opportunities to overcome it. But in the Seligian game of international football, where it doesn't seem like video replay will ever be used, it would make sense to add more eyeballs.

BIIIIIING: You know that sound a door-stopper makes when you flick it to the right or left? It's often used by unfunny FM-radio DJs to imply the sound of a man's erection, and usually goes something like, "Boi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oi-ng."

Anyway, it's no coincidence that the fine people at BING, in their ad that's been running endlessly since the beginning of the Cup, use two very sexy Latin women whose every syllable is meant to induce such a reaction from their male-heavy audience.

Both of the women are beautiful, but that Filomena in particular seems to boast some curvaciousness that I find quite appealing.

TIPS FOR SPOUSES: Though there are fewer games ahead, the stakes are greater and the play will be better between now and the Cup final on July 11.

If your husband has been glued to the set and you've got some extra time on your hands, here are some tips from MSN on what to do while he's watching.

WORKPLACE PRODUCTIVITY FALLS: A new study out Monday shows there was an alarming drop in workplace productivity in the United States Friday, and the Cup is the obvious culprit.

The figures showed that Americans spent a total of nine man-hours -- perhaps as many as 10 -- of company time on Friday, as office workers from coast to coast printed out elimination-round brackets and tried to figure out where Italy and France were on the schedule.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor said the figures clearly demonstrate a growing interest in soccer.

"The figures clearly demonstrate a growing interest in soccer," he said.


Cup Run Over: USA Falls To Ghana, 2-1

Jonathan Bornstein

Americans Start Flat,
Can't Carry Momentum
From Wednesday's Thriller

One Great Season
The spirited second-half comeback against Slovenia, the 91st-minute goal to beat Algeria and the global sympathy offered up after questionable referees' calls were all once cute storylines, but they'll eventually pale in comparison to this harsh reality after the USA lets Saturday's Round-of-16 loss to Ghana sink in: the World Cup was a rather large disappointment for the American side.

Had the U.S. been eliminated by a traditional power like Germany today, and had they done so despite playing a full match with the heart and determination so evident through much of their Group C win, then perhaps a silver lining would be obvious.

But the Americans came out flat and though they eventually increased their intensity for a stretch, they'll be remembered for an overall punchless performance in an elimination game against an inferior team.

Ghana are no slouch; they're among the top footballing sides in Africa, but the USMNT is no slouch either and winning knockout games is something credible teams do with regularity at the World Cup. Lost in all the drama of Landon Donovan's 11th-hour goal Wednesday was the fact that the Americans were supposed to have advanced past the group stage.

Now that it's been an hour, here's how a few of the OGS World Cup writers are weighing in following the difficult loss:

+ Jeremy Brown
Landon Donovan's divorce will be finalized.

+ Bruce Sholl
We looked like shit, no intensity. What else do you want me to say?

+ Steve Susi
Having just returned to the States as the OGS European Bureau correspondent, the US Men's National Team today reminded me of a wheel of Holland's famous Edam cheese: waxed on the outside, soft in the middle, and if you leave it out too long, it starts to stink. In contrast, Ghana played like a nice Manchego, the Spanish varietal with a black rind that gets really runny when warm.

So proud of our boys, though. Heartbreaking, yes — but only after three performances which even the English fans I met all last week had to admit rendered us an international laughing-stock no longer.

+ Mike Dick
The U.S. laid an egg. Were it not for the crossbar, the Americans would have conceded goals in the first 10 minutes of each match and extra time. Piss poor. Can't create chances or finish them and crappy midfield.


World Cup 2010: USMNT Looks To Continue Run

Landon Donovan

Americans On Brink
Of Something Significant

One Great Season

The U.S. takes on Ghana Saturday in the knockout phase of South Africa 2010. The Yanks are coming off of their heart-stopping, last-minute victory over Algeria to turn a potential early exit into a group-topping finish.

The feat hasn't gone unnoticed. The drama of that win, coupled with the we-wuz-robbed moments of the Slovenia and Algeria matches, has generated a lot of pub -- even sympathy -- for this team. The casual or even non-soccer fan seems to be along for the ride, which is awesome.

The Americans are where they should have expected to be when the Cup began, advancing from the group stage. Nothing less should be accepted anymore. Now comes the time to show if the U.S. team has what it takes to make this a truly special tournament. If the Americans are as good as they like to think they are, and if our country wants to be taken seriously as a footballing nation, Ghana is the kind of team the USMNT must beat, period. No excuses (barring another d-bag refereeing decision late in the going).

A win will propel the U.S. into the last eight, and match the achievement of the USMNT in Japorea 2002. But this team has the chance to do something much more signficant. Much of that magical 2002 tournament run wasn't enjoyed by the masses, as many of the matches were played in the middle of the night U.S. time. Not so with South Africa. I expect big numbers (in the soccer sense) for the Ghana clash, which adds to the pressure and significance of Saturday's showdown in the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Sure the world will be watching. But more importantly, Americans, and lots of them, will be as well.

It's a joke that the U.S. Women's 1999 World Cup triumph is the most watched soccer match in our country's history. It just goes to show what marketing and promotion can do. That was played up as some sort of improbable, feel-good story, when in fact the USWNT was one of, if not, the best women's team in the world, playing on home turf, with one World Cup already in their pockets. Now, this men's team has a chance to do something far more significant in the sporting and cultural sense. They may actually be able to raise the profile of the game outside the ever-growing group of hard-core football fans. Here's hoping the Americans are up to the task.

Click here for Mike's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


Five Reasons Why USA Will Beat Ghana

Landon Donovan

Will Confidence From
Group Win Carry Over
To Knockout Round?

One Great Season

Before the USA-Algeria game Wednesday, I had spent the last few days of my California vacation crowing to people I thought the United States was done. I had turned into a hater of my own frickin' team.

As new soccer fans came out of the woodwork in support of our squad, I might as well have stomped on the eagle, tossed my giant Uncle Sam hat and snubbed my nose at portraits of those guys marching by with the "Don't Tread on Me" flag.

If Apollo Creed had offered me those spiffy American flag trunks, I would have said no way.

The Americans' inconsistent performances and general lack of sizzle against Slovenia and England left me uninspired and disappointed. Despite the furious comeback against Slovenia, I still didn't think this was a second-round World Cup team. And it should have been. I was predicting a tie against Algeria and, alas, a quick trip home.

But then came the sparkling play vs. Algeria, capped by a much-deserved late goal by USA's best player that helped send this country's spirits soaring with pride and the alcohol flowing all night. So now that this team has proven me wrong (gulp, I hope!), I'm more than happy to jump back on the bandwagon and believe the Americans will advance into their second-ever World Cup quarterfinal.

Here are five reasons why the U.S. should beat Ghana Saturday:

1. Renewed confidence at the right time. Maybe, after all, it was better for this team to give us so much disappointment in the first two games. It forced them to stand up to the pressure and prove they could deliver a great performance in a do-or-die situation. Getting through that successfully will help them in the knockout round here. Because, well, they've already technically won one knockout game. The dramatic win also turned out to clinch the group for the U.S., the first time it has won a World Cup group in 80 years. All this will have the side beaming with confidence that they can beat anyone.

2. Ghana's lack of goals. Ghana looks flashy on paper, led by striker Asamoah Gyan. And the Black Stars play a tough and physical defense. But look closer and you see they only scored two goals in group play and both of those were on penalty kicks. Ghana's win came over Serbia, but their loss to Germany. A win over the Serbs will not impress or intidimidate the U.S., as possibly a win over Germany would have. With the Americans' defense showing signs of collapse at times during this Cup, knowing they are not facing an offensive powerhouse could help.

3. Revenge for 2006: Ghana beat the United States 2-1 in the final group-stage game of the 2006 World Cup, propelling the Black Stars into the Round of 16 and sending the U.S. home with a last-place finish. Granted, four years is a long time to remember one loss, but this is yet another bonus nugget for the U.S. to use as motivation. And a lot of the current American players were around for that loss.

4. Steve Cherundolo's aggressive attack. One factor that helped the U.S. so much against Algeria was a more assertive presence in the midfield and attacking end. They did not let Algeria continually  shove the ball down their throats, like they allowed against England and much of the game vs. Slovenia. One way this was accomplished was Cherundolo pushing up more on runs and getting an extra player into the flow of the offense. Look for this trend to continue and for there to be more chances opened up for USA's talented forwards.

5. Landon Donovan. The country's all-time best player (man, I just keep saying that, but it's true!) finally believes this is his team, his time and his chance to lead the Americans to new heights. Donovan has scored many spectacular goals in his career, but none have shaken the earth like his winning goal Wednesday and he'll feed on that. He's a mature and experienced player and will use that momentum to motivate himself and the team to the quarterfinals. I look for Donovan and his fellow attackers to be strong early, and I wouldn't be surprised if this time the U.S. scores early and can play with the lead.

Prediction: 2-1 U.S.

Click here for Mike's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


BBC Heaps Praise On USA After Thrilling Victory

World Cup 2010 Logo

One Great Season

LONDON -- What a day it was Wednesday. I'm exhausted after an extensively hot day that pretty much had a soundtrack from The Specials as I ran around Europe's largest city in the vain hopes of finding one single screen showing the USA-Algeria match (read about my ordeal here). This day's weather was perfect, after spending all day seated in a perfect Centre Court at Wimbledon Tuesday, I assumed today would match the ease, grace, and elegance of the two previous. It did weather-wise, at least.

But back in my hotel room after all the madness, I flipped on BBC1 and listened to a World Cup expert drop a fairly flattering opinion on the American team after its thrilling 1-0 defeat of Algeria:

"I watched the whole of it and, you know, it was back and forth, fantastic football for the fans. Algeria and the United States, going at each other for 91 minutes; errors, options, possibilities. And you really saw the character of the Americans — and America — on the pitch. They never, ever stopped fighting. And even though they had some bad calls against them, they didn't let those things stop them. They just cleaned up after themselves. And then they won. What was it, the 92nd minute? They deserved it. You know when you have so many chances it's bound to happen. It was lovely, lovely football and they deserved to win the group. Good on you, USA."

Click here for Steve's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


A New Yorker in England: A Harrowing Tale


One Great Season

LONDON -- I found a "pop-up bar" online called Fever Pitch that's only in Fulham Broadway (in the heart of the football-mad London neighborhood of Fulham) for the extent of the World Cup.

I also found some blogs and local news articles about the best pubs for watching all matches, and Fever Pitch was rated highly. So I headed over there from my hotel in Vauxhall and they barely let me in an hour beforehand; it was packed to the gills.

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I asked the bouncer which screen's rolling the U.S. match, and he said, "No way. We tried at kickoff, but when we turned it on the TV at the far corner, the place went berserk. So, not here mate. Sorry."

I was goddamned livid; not only did they promise the airing of all matches online, it even said it on the clapboard standing outside the door of the place.

So I walked around that square to all the bars and they basically laughed when I asked about the U.S. match. "Sorry mate," went the reply at all of them. "We understand, but if I give up a screen here to the U.S. match I'll be fired and then killed." I even went to a place called "The American Grill," and the Pakistani family inside running the place said the same.

So in my travails I found one bar manager who's American. He told me to go to an American-owned pub called Back Page in Leicester Square, just outside the station. "Perfect," I think, and I head over there as fast as I can (by this point it's roughly 20th minute) and go straight to the first bar I see outside the station to ask their bouncer standing outside, who should know, and sure enough, the Back Page is nowhere near that neighborhood. The dopey American dude at that one bar in Fulhman was dead wrong. So I go around Leicester Square and Covent Garden and find 100 places packed solid, and in keeping with the story, none had even one goddamned screen rolling the U.S. match — not even one of those dumb little bar-side monitors that no one watches.

At this point, I'd be happy to just sit down, have a beer, watch the end of the England-Slovenia match, and hear its broadcast commentators possibly give asides that include progress of the US match.

So — you ready to laugh? — I found a Travelodge in Covent Garden with big ground-floor windows, through which I discover a hotel bar about half-full with plenty of empty seats, beer and a big screen. I came in with about 15 minutes left, grabbed a beer and fire up one of the Internet terminals which just happen to be in the hotel bar. I turned on ESPN3 online and about 10 minutes later, the people in the Travelodge were visibly terrified when I started jumping around and yelling at the computer. Landon Donovan's goal in extras sent the USA into the next round, and at least one American in London embarrassing himself in a cheap hotel bar.

Click here for Steve's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


OGS World Cup Writers React To USA's Thrilling Win

Landon Donovan

One Great Season

If I knew more about soccer, I'd try to twist something romantically savvy into my prose about what Landon Donovan and the United States accomplished in South Africa today.

But no one ever says it's a great day to be among the literati. On a day like today, after an effort like Donovan's, people say things like, "It's a great day to be an American."

No sports columnist and surely no blogger will be able to wield a pen mightier than Donovan's right foot today. But since the celebration of USA's 1-0 group-clinching defeat of Algeria is still only a couple hours old, emotions are fresh, and so is the team of OGS World Cup writers. Here's what they had to say after the Americans won their group for the first time since 1930, and advanced to Saturday's knockout round:

+ Mike Mudd
Wow, America craved some drama from this U.S. team and boy did they get it. I had oozed confidence in my Group C preview that England and the U.S. would advance easily  out of this seemingly barren group. And I admit I couldn't have been more wrong. The correct two teams moved on, but not without putting both countries' fans on life support for a week. The U.S. showed the type of soccer today it will need to win a second-round game, and I think they have a good shot at winning one with this renewed confidence. I have always thought Landon Donovan is the best home-grown field player this country has ever produced, and his goal today to save the team just backs up my contention. It wasn't easy, but it some ways, the way this U.S. team earned its trip to the next round, it may in the long run bring forth more fans. Because at the end of the day, everyone loves a win pulled out of the fire and the drama of sports.

+ Jake Yadrich
For 90 minutes, it seemed as though the United States were going to get jobbed again by the refs.  The U.S. were attacking hard, creating multiple chances but never cashing in. For the last 10 minutes of the game, I was actually praying for a Slovenia goal since it looked like the Americans were boned ... but Landon came through, and gave me the most memorable sports-viewing experience of my life. As a Kansas grad, I never thought anything would top Mario Chalmers' 3-pointer against Memphis in 2008, but even that has to take a back seat to today's events.

+ Mike Marshall
With all the pressure you could imagine, the country watching, some trying to understand how a 0-0 match could be dramatic, only to be shown a veritable Hollywood finish in added time, these guys never quit. It made me proud to see this level of sustained performance finally resulting in a win (think Germany in the 2002 Final). Damn. This World Cup Christmas just keeps on giving.

+ Mike Dick
This is why we love football. A couple of minutes from going out, the Americans get the late goal and win the group. Cue the massive, collective orgasm. The glut of chances nearly went begging, but great vision and distribution from Tim Howard and good, continued running and the finish by Donovan gave the U.S. what they deserved.

+ Jeremy Brown
More amazing than the awful officiating and an unlikely finish as group leaders, there is actually international sympathy for Americans. And an added benefit of the USA's win was the collection of post-game shots of hot crying Algerian women.

+ Bruce Sholl
It goes to show what kind of team the Americans are by looking at how they responded to adversity today. This was the second game in a row where a goal was disallowed because of questionable refereeing. FIFA seems intent on letting these kinds of game-altering decisions stand with no real consequence, so what's the real cost for a ref if he sways a game one way or another? Add to that the downright dirty play by the Desert Rats, who were intentionally trying to take USA's players out of the game and you can see what kind of team the world thinks we are. These guys didn't let it get into their heads; they kept their focus and played until the end of the match, looking for any opportunity to shift the balance.

That is what makes our country strong -- a willful determination to see things through, even when they aren't going our way -- and why Algeria is going home, why no one likes them, why they have shitty uniforms and why they live in a desert. Throughout their history, stronger, more motivated countries like the Romans, the Arabs, the Ottomans, the Spanish and the French have taken claim to their land, their government, their resources and now we their football team ... and their pride.


USA Wins: Who Said What On Twitter?

World Cup 2010 Logo

One Great Season

Landon Donovan scored in the 91st minute Wednesday to give USA a 1-0 win over Algeria and advance to the Round of 16 in the World Cup.

Until Donovan's heroics, it looked like the unlucky U.S. side would play to its third straight draw and miss the knockout round once again. But the late goal didn't only give the USMNT reason to celebrate its spot in the next round, but it marked the first time since 1930 that it had won its group. England beat Slovenia, 1-0, to advance as the second-place team in Group C.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard saved a light header from Algeria, then quickly threw out to a streaking Donovan, who controlled the ball up the right flank, dished to Jozy Altidore, whose cross met the left foot of Clint Dempsey. Dempsey's one-timer was blocked by Algerian keeper M'bolhi Rais Ouheb, but Donovan's easy rebound found the back of the net without any trouble.

The goal set off jubilant celebrations across the globe, and of course gave Twitter users all kinds of headaches. But some were lucky enough to use the popular social-networking service, and here are some of the better updates sent in the moments after USA finished off the dramatic win:

+ @rk: "Fuck you FIFA refs. We can win without you."

+ @ashleyalderman: "My ENTIRE twitter feed just filled up with tweets that say 'gooooalllllll'. Love it."

+ @PeaceLikeDat: "Landon Donovan crashed the Tweetdeck servers!"

+ @Mengus22: "Landon Donovan went Christian Laettner on Algeria!"

+ @JoeSportsFan: "Sports Illustrated, you're on the clock to airbrush an appropriate hairline for Landon Donovan."

+ @loudibella: "That was one of the greatest moments I have seen in sports.I am teary eyed.GO USA!"

+ @slmandel: "Finally invested in a World Cup, and it paid off. Unreal. And sorry, neighbors below me."

+ @wsjcouch: "On Sportscenter, ESPN just led with Lawrence Taylor's indictment. Then did USA result. You stay classy, Bristol."

+ @wyshynski: "I'm building a Landon Donovan statue out of apple pie, BBQ and Jack Daniels in my front yard."

+ @DVNJr: "Buy stock in the MLS. Now."


+ Donovan told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap after the game, while fighting back tears, that there was no way he'd miss his golden chance: "The ball got to me and time kind of stopped ... You can't miss from there."

+ Donovan, who admittedly wasn't ready to be a leader for the 2006 Cup team, added that he's been on a four-year journey since that disappointing showing in Germany: "People that know me closest know how hard I've worked for this moment."

+ Donovan has picked up a few Twitter followers since his big goal. At 12:10 p.m. ET, he had 52,341. At 12:29, his audience was up to 52,577 and at 12:37, he had 52,705 followers.

+ U.S. coach Bob Bradley told Schaap he was proud of his players' patience: "You worry because when you've been in it a long time, sometimes on nights like that you come up short, but these guys kept going."


Group C Preview: USA-Algeria

Edson Buddle

Will Buddle Deliver
If Given The Chance?

One Great Season

Perhaps you've heard the US men's soccer team has a fairly significant match on Wednesday.

The Americans take on Algeria on the final day of pool play for Group C. England and Slovenia tangle in the other match; both begin at 10 a.m. ET.

As far as the Stars and Stripes are concerned, you can throw out all that silly math talk. Points and goal differential are irrelevant by now; all the USMNT needs to do is win and it advances to the knockout stage. A Round of 16 match against a team from Group D awaits either Saturday or Sunday.

Below are some predictions from a few of the OGS World Cup writers for Wednesday's high-stakes match:

Jake Yadrich
Everyone's been clamoring to see what Edson Buddle can do alongside Jozy Altidore, and we may finally get to see it. Starting Robbie Findley over Buddle seemed questionable to me to begin with, but now the squad's hottest goal scorer coming into the tournament may finally see significant minutes. Buddle puts one in the net, and Tim Howard posts a clean sheet in a 2-0 USA victory.

Mike Dick
+ USA must come out ready to play and not take 45 minutes to wake up as it did against Slovenia.
+ The Americans need an early goal in the worst way, so who is going to partner with Altidore up front in Findley's absence? Buddle? Hercules Gomez? Nobody?
+ The defense cannot concede another early goal; maintaining discipline and shape are key.

Mike Marshall
If USA can buckle up the back, and be positive up front without losing their overall shape, then they're good to go through.

Ben Jackey
The US has a chip on its shoulder after getting it prison-style by the referee against Slovenia on Friday. The Americans play well as an underdog and should have their tales up early in this match.

But that could play into the Desert Foxes' paws. They are best on the counter-attack because they have speed to burn.

History is not on the side of the USMNT, which doesn't play well when its destiny is in its own hands. See 1994 ... 2002 ... and 2006. Expectations are high. I repeat: Expectations are high. For once, much of the country is watching. Can USA handle the pressure?

I predict a goal around 65' by Gomez. Then perhaps a late LandyCakes PK. Meaning he will raise the dead at the spot.

Jeremy Brown
Algeria have recently proven to be stiff competition when their backs are against the wall, as we all saw during the diplomatic fiasco with Egypt in the qualifiers. And nobody likes to lose to Americans, let alone Muslim countries if we're being honest.

International intrigue aside, the Desert Foxes not only have a cool fucking moniker, but a few very good European-based players like Belhadj and Yebda. They're not the unknown quantity that everyone seems to like to portray them as. This match will have a bit of the dogfight about it, and will be a serious balls call for the US.


Is It Time For Bob Bradley To Be Replaced?

World Cup 2010 Logo

Second-Half Comeback
Saves USMNT, But
Coach Needs To Go

One Great Season

Great fightback. Well done. And yes, the Americans got TOTALLY SCREWED out of the three points in their 2-2 draw with Slovenia on Thursday.

But let's not let the USMNT's fine comeback and the injustice done by the incompetent referee erase the fact that the Americans also bent themselves over with another pathetic first half performance. Every U.S. fan hopes -- and many of them actually believe -- our team is a force to be reckoned with in world football.

But the Slovenians made the U.S. squad look naive and amateurish in the opening 45. The Americans totally lacked passion and commitment aganst a team that called them out and guaranteed they would beat them. Bob Bradley's troops gave Slovenia all the time and space on the ball they wanted. USA couldn't maintain possession, had virtually no midfield and resorted to pumping hopeful long balls up to Jozy Altidore and Robbie Findley. The American defenders were all over the shop, and they paid dearly for it all. Sleepwalking through a match at the World Cup Finals with plenty on the line? They were Yanks alright, but in the masturbatory metaphoric sense.

How on earth the lads were not motivated from the start boggles the mind? The old sports cliche says "you can't fire the players, so you fire the coach." The players should be ashamed of themselves for that first-half effort, and for not coming out with fire in their eyes from the first whistle. But Bradley must take the blame. Many were calling for his ouster at the Confederations Cup until the U.S. did a surprising 180 and went on their improbable trip to the final. Bradley's job was saved, and he may well have gotten another get-out-of-jail-free card Thursday. A loss would have been devastating, and the cries surely would be going out for Bradley to get the sack. Well, no matter what happens from here on out, it's time for Bob to go after this tournament.

The Americans have progressed to the point where they are the top dog in our admittedly rather lightweight region. The next step is to take it up a notch, and try to challenge the best from Europe and South America. We should expect more than what we got today. The USMNT were nearly embarrassed by Slovenia (a useful side, but nothing close to Europe's best) with the whole world watching. If the U.S. is are to be a serious footballing nation, then the coaching job should be a hot seat. You either produce the goods or you're gone. It's not good enough to spin their wheels; the Americans have to move forward. It's clear that for that to happen, the USMNT needs new leadership in the form of a top-class manager with an international pedigree. Would that guarantee success at the international level? Hardly. But the time has come to give it a shot.

Today at halftime, maybe Bob shoved some verbal vuvuzelas up his team's behinds. If so, great. But a match takes place over 90 minutes, and if we saw the commitment over the whole of the match that we got in the second 45, we'd all be celebrating a comfortable win with our place in the knockout stage all but assured. Instead, we were denied three points in part by some shambolic refereeing. But that shockingly bad decision likely would not have been as costly had the Americans shown up to play from the opening kick-off. Let's hope the Stars and Stripes can get after it from the very start in the Algeria match and then take it from there. Either way, let it please be Bob's last stand.

Click here for Mike's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


World Cup Notes: Buddle Shines, Ball Blues & Nike

World Cup 2010 Logo

One Great Season

With Jozy Altidore out injured, Edson Buddle and Robbie Findley each had opportunities to show their stuff to Bob Bradley in the USMNT's tuneup against Australia on Saturday. It was a classic example of one player seizing the opportunity, and the other ... well ... slotting it wide.

Buddle clinically finished two balls in the first half, but Findley shot wide after rounding the keeper and later blazed off the bar in a goalmouth scramble when both should have been put away. At this level, solid chances created simply must be converted.

Buddle, who has been hot for the L.A. Galaxy this season, showed how to do it. Real Salt Lake's Finley showed why his surprise inclusion in the final Cup roster was questionable. Never thought I'd be saying this, but ... Brian Ching, anyone?


As the World Cup ball controversy bounces on, we had more glimpses on Saturday of how the orb may impact the upcoming games. Australia keeper Mark Schwarzer looked none-too-sure of himself in the first half. The sun also may have been a factor, but the big Aussie offered nothing on Buddle's fierce drive and awkwardly fumbled a cross out for a corner.

At the other end, Tim Howard got down to parry a tricky crank that had movement as well. We also saw several field players struggling to judge some of the higher-flighted balls. Even if Ballgate is much ado about nothing, it's fairly obvious it's put a dent in the keepers' confidence.

All this would lead us to believe we will see quite a few gaffes/oddities when the matches start this week. While it's true that everyone plays with the same ball and it will be the same for all teams, it won't be cool to see matches decided on flukes. Let's hope it doesn't happen, at least not much.


As the U.S. team continues to try to carve out some sort of identity in the world game, its kit flounders to find some sort of relevance. Year after year, Nike cranks out the most boring designs in the game. And the Swoosh seems to save some of its least creative efforts for the good ol' U.S. of A. Sadly, this Cup is no different. Same old, nondescript, boring all white for the Yanks. Even the Aussies' green and gold looked more like a training top than a proper kit top. Well done, Nike.

When you flip on a match, it takes no time to identify the yellow of Brazil, the blue and white of Argentina, the orange of the Netherlands or the blue of Italy or France and on and on.

The USMNT needs this same sort of color identification, preferably with color. The nod to the 1950 team is cool, but sadly and predictably muted. A blue sash would obviously bring too much color to the party, so Nike opted for white on white? Gray on white? I have no problem with the away shirt, which looks fine. But then again, it has color! Now I'm not suggesting a return to the denim vomit or acid-trip stripes of 1994, but we need to develop our own iconic design that is easily and instantly recognizable. Just say no to being to world football what Penn State is to college football. Leave the all-white stripe to Real Madrid.


USMNT Seeks Another Wednesday Night At The Bar

World Cup 2010 Logo

World Cup Could Prove To Be
Hot Chick's Sober Girlfriend

One Great Season

Most guys have had that one night. That one blip in the continuum when the stars align. Maybe Wednesday night at a half-empty bar and an outgoing and extremely drunk co-ed strikes up a conversation. These aren't the 4s or 5s you usually corral at last call. We're talking way out of your league (think Jamie Kennedy and Jennifer Love Hewitt).

Your liquid confidence and her inability to reason lead to some awkward, non-rhythmic, yet sensual dancing and eventually some tongue entanglement outside the club. But just before you're ready to take her to her place, her sober girlfriend rescues her and leaves you empty-handed.

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For the United States Men's National Team, the 2009 Confederations Cup was that hot chick. That team was fortunate to even be in the elimination round. An improbable 3-0 drubbing of Egypt got the Americans to safety on goal differential after being previously thumped by Brazil and Italy. Then came conversation and sensual dancing in the form of a shocking 2-0 defeat of Spain. Yes, the U.S. outplayed the No. 1 team in the world, but the two goals were extremely fortunate. Jozy Altidore's bounced off a hand and the post. Clint Dempsey's came after a poor pass by Landon Donovan took two lucky deflections.

Then, the lip-locking. USA found itself up 2-0 on Brazil after another fortunate goal by Dempsey and then maybe the best counter-attack the USMNT had ever produced, with precision passing and finishing from Charlie Davies and Donovan.

But the sober girlfriend eventually reared her ugly head, rushed into the bar and took the hot chick away. Brazil 3, USA 2.

Truth be told, the USA supporters' confidence and optimism are due in large part to that "Wednesday night." Remember, there was no England, no Portugal, no Ivory Cost and no France -- none of the beefcake dudes who could have easily scored with that girl in the USA's stead. Who can forget the two stiff drinks the Stars and Stripes had  at their ready, eager to charm the hot girl who normally wouldn’t give them a second look?     

+ Charlie Davies -- No one can stretch the field like he can and he was developing into a good passer.

+ A healthy Oguchi Onyewu -- He may have played the three best games of his life in that tournament, but is now nowhere near 75 percent, let alone 100.

I will argue that in its current physical form, this team is slightly better than it was in 2006. The group it will face will more readily concede points than the one the Yanks faced in Germany. Don't be surprised if the USMNT makes it out of the group stage. Don't be surprised if it doesn't.

A heading in the overpriced ESPN World Cup Preview reads, "Teams that won't win, but could." I audibly laughed as I found the USA grouped in with the select handful of teams that included the Netherlands and France. Sorry, but June 11 marks the beginning of Saturday night. Chances are we'll be leaving either empty-handed or worse (think Rosie O'Donnell).

Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning former television reporter and soccer fanatic who lives in Louisville, Ky.